2 Feb 2014

Thailand vote results stalled after protests

Thailand’s election commission says it is unable to announce the results of nationwide elections after anti-government protesters force the closure of hundreds of polling stations.

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, election commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that the requirements of election law had not been met.

“The election laws require that elections be composed of results from voting units, results from election districts and those who vote outside their district,” Supachai said.

Despite some disruption, voting proceeded relatively peacefully.

Polling stations closed at the end of Sunday with no reports of violent clashes, easing fears of bloodshed a day after gun battles in Bangkok left seven people wounded.

“Today was a lucky day. There was no violence,” said election commission official Somchai Sisoothiyakorn.

‘A peaceful election day’

“Thank you everyone from both sides for contributing to a peaceful election day. The election today didn’t cause any loss of life,” he added.

The national focus was on capital Bangkok where 488 of the capital’s 6,600 polling stations were shut and several skirmishes broke out between protesters intent on disrupting the vote and frustrated would-be voters.

The election commission said the closure of polls affected more than six million registered voters.

In one Bangkok suburb, voters who had been deprived of their chance to vote decided to hold a mock election.

Residents of Ratchathewi district took over an abandoned polling station, set up beer crates as ballot boxes and used scrap paper to vote.

Voters doubled as officials and said that about a thousand people cast their vote.

New voting date

The organizers said they will take the results of their mock election to the police.

The Election Commission is expected to meet on Monday to decide on a new voting date for those who were not able to cast their ballot on Sunday.

Anti-government protesters accuse Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of carrying on the practices of her billionaire brother Thaksin, a former prime minister they allege used the family fortune and state funds to influence voters and subvert democracy.

Yingluck called the early polls, hoping to reaffirm her mandate after facing strident street protests that threatened to result in prolonged violence.

But anti-government forces, who have been demonstrating since November, want an unelected interim government to hold office for up to two years to implement political and electoral reforms to fight corruption and money politics.